Parliament: All new public buses will be electric or hybrid, says Janil

Singapore has deployed 50 diesel-electric buses on the roads since March last year, and has also bought 60 fully-electric buses and will be deploying them progressively this year. PHOTO: ST

SINGAPORE - Singapore will eventually ditch public buses which run solely on diesel power, it was revealed in Parliament on Thursday (March 5).

Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary said the Government will buy either electric or hybrids from now on, adding that this is in line with its goal to have its fleet of public buses - numbering around 5,400 now - run on cleaner energy by 2040.

The Straits Times understands the hybrid buses are likely to be diesel-electric models, as these are currently most widely available. Both will cost more than conventional buses.

Dr Janil said Singapore has deployed 50 diesel-electric buses on the roads since March last year.

"We have also bought 60 fully-electric buses and will be deploying them progressively this year," he said, adding that new bus depots will be designed to support electric buses.

He also encouraged taxi operators to switch to electric cabs. Mass market electric taxis will require "the minimum Additional Registration Fee of $5,000", he noted. As at end-January, only 133 out of 18,528 cabs were electric.

Beyond buses and taxis, Singapore plans to phase out all vehicles which run solely on combustion engines by 2040, a move Dr Janil described as ambitious.

"This means that after 2030, we should see no new purchases of internal combustion engine vehicles," he noted.

With around 900,000 combustion engine vehicles on the road today, he said "this will require an extensive transformation of the fleet, significant changes in commuting and consumer behaviour and the development of the necessary supporting infrastructure".

On charging infrastructure, the Government will work with the private sector to roll out more electric vehicle (EV) charging points, notably in public carparks.

By 2030, there will be 28,000 charging points, up from 1,600 now.

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To pave the way for more electric vehicles to be imported, Dr Janil announced that the Japanese Chademo fast-charging standard will be allowed here.

This 120kW system can charge an electric car in about 30 minutes. It is compatible with the Nissan Leaf, the world's top-selling electric car, which was launched in Singapore last year.

Dr Janil also outlined several steps to cope with the increase in electricity demand arising from EV adoption.

He said Singapore will ramp up its power generation capacity, reinforce its grid network, and apply innovations such as smart charging and energy storage solutions "that store energy from the grid during off-peak periods".

New tax incentives announced during the Budget will kick in next year, to nudge consumers towards EVs.

Valid till 2023 and estimated to cost $71 million, they are meant to close the wide price gap between combustion engine vehicles and EVs.

Dr Janil expects EVs "to reach cost parity with internal combustion engine vehicles by the mid-2020s".

As existing EV owners did not benefit from the new tax rebates, they will not have to pay a new annual lump sum tax up till end-2023.

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EVs aside, Dr Janil said initiatives to test autonomous vehicles (AVs) will pick up speed.

"Today, about 30 AVs are authorised for public road trials," he said. "We aim to progress to the next stage of trials with pilot deployment in the early 2020s."

He added that more than 20 companies had responded to last year's Call for Collaboration. "We are currently assessing and looking through their proposals," he said.

To prepare bus captains for the advent of autonomous buses, Dr Janil said the Land Transport Authority will work with bus operators and the National Transport Workers' Union to "develop a skills and training roadmap to be launched by the end of this year".

He said the roadmap will identify emerging skills and new job roles arising from AV deployment. "We plan to train about 100 bus captains as a start," he said.

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